You ain’t seen nothing like the mighty Quins!
Quins beat Sale away on Saturday to secure top place in the Rugby Premiership. A fantastic achievement with a still very young team. Throughout the season they have played fast, exciting rugby, always looking to run it, getting in the face of the opposition. It has been a privilege to be a season ticket holder at the Stoop. There have been so many brilliant individual performances, but above all it is the team spirit that has shone through. The backs-to-the-wall defending against Saracens at Wembley is maybe the most memorable example of how the team have played for each other.
Nonetheless, I’d name full back, Mike Brown, as my player of the year. Always making the hard yards, ferocious and unflinching in the tackle, always on hand to support the attacking move, quick to the breakdown. Fearless and never less than 100% commitment.
On the left in this photo. Matt Hopper, one of the great young players in there with him.
It’s the season too, when the mighty Chris Robshaw has got the recognition he deserves. He inexplicably didn’t make the England squad for the World Cup; but, under the new management, was made the captain of the new England team for the Six Nations. He led by example and England were reborn, coming second, within a whisker of beating the champions, Wales. Sometimes you don’t hear his name much in the commentary, because he is always there, in the dark recesses of the rucks and mauls, fighting for that ball, doing the stuff that eventually creates the space and possession for the backs to flourish. I don’t understand half of what goes on, having been a fancy-dan back myself when I played at school, but I admire whatever that stuff is!
So, it’s Northampton in the play off semi at the Stoop. Won’t be easy. The Northampton scrum rolled ours over in the game at Franklin’s Gardens. Not many have done that to the Quins forwards this season – Toulon were the other team that did a demolition job. And of course they have some scorching backs, not least the England pair, Ben Foden and Chris Aston. So it will be a tight game, but I’m reasonably optimistic about the outcome. A final against Leicester or Saracens, if we make it through, will be another challenge altogether. But the team have shown so many times this season that they can rise to the occasion. Fingers crossed they will do it again; but whatever happens, we must not forget that Quins won the league!
Come On You Quins!
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Big Sam’s Happy Hammers cruise to Wem-ber-ley!
It was so frustrating to see West Ham miss out on automatic promotion from the Championship, back to the Premier League. Most people would agree we had the strongest squad. But the team underachieved in February/March, drawing loads of games at home. The fans got edgy and so did the team. Southampton had a wobble too, but came out of it sooner and deserved to have one of the two top slots. The joker in the pack was Reading, who embarked on an amazing run of victories – I think it was something like 51 points out of 57. And they beat the Hammers at Upton Park, 4-2, during that run. You cannot knock that.
So into the playoff purgatory. Except, it turned out to be a bit of a doddle in the semis, against Cardiff. West Ham were on a run of good form, which had started with a 6-0 thrashing of Brighton. As a West Ham fan, it is impossible to feel truly confident about the prospects for the team, after 40 odd years of dashed expectations, but objectively we were in good shape to take on Cardiff. And so it showed. 2-0 in the away leg, 3-0 today, at home. The big match experience of Nolan, Green, Noble, Taylor, Cole; the promise of Tomkins, Lansbury, Reid, came together and it was a bit of a stroll.
Photo: Noble – Cole – Nolan. Backbone.
The final at Wembley will be different. Birmingham or Blackpool. We seem to have a bit of a problem with the Brummies, so I hope Blackpool will retain their first leg lead, but I do not underestimate them, either. West Ham did beat them 4-0 twice in the regular season, but they have an attacking elan, as Ian Holloway’s teams always do. Whoever the opponent is, 19 May will be a tense and nervous time!
Come On You Irons!
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